Thick belong to a coterie of bands that’s incredibly easy to identify. They slot in effortlessly with the current crop of indie-punk bands with regards to delivery and attitude, wrapped up in a distinctly Strokes-ish package to fully nail down their New York roots. That’s all fine in itself, but it’s no secret that neither of those scenes are exactly underpopulated at the moment, and considering that 5 Years Behind can admittedly feel like it’s arrived where it is through the critical fast-track that a lot of bands in this vein tend to get swept up by, it becomes all the easier to believe that whatever spark of critical adoration that Thick will get isn’t going to have that much staying power. That’s really not a fair appraisal though; bands like this have definitely surprised before, and while the constant stream of indie-punk acts that aren’t really bringing anything new to the conversation has become incredibly disillusioning, there’s no guarantee that Thick are going to stick purely within the doldrums.
But even after going in as optimistically as possible, 5 Years Behind kind of just falls into what seems to be the most common ground for albums of this stripe, namely albums that are solid and perfectly listenable, but struggle to properly raise their head above the sea of bands with extremely similar intentions. It’s definitely not enough to make this an outright bad album – indeed, the lyrical wit and directness that Thick have is just as good as many of their contemporaries and is just as definitively the defining feature here – but 5 Years Behind also doesn’t have the sparkle in its execution which is unfortunately commonplace to be missing within indie-punk. It all leads to an album that’s enjoyable and serviceable, but not much more, and as far as leaving a lasting impression goes, Thick’s doesn’t quite hit as hard as some others’.
For an area where Thick are at their unequivocal best though, it would be in the writing and how the band do co-opt a more traditionally punk flavour into their subject matter that’s not pushing the envelope, but proves to be a good fit for them nonetheless. Bringing forward their most acerbic punk streak on Fake News and Your Mom hits the hardest as Thick rally again the manipulative nature of the media and a society that still perpetuates outdated roles onto women respectively, but there’s a rather consistent amount of frustration and ennui on display across the board. There’s the acknowledgment of how modern life just feels like so much all the time on Bumming Me Out, compounded by how regular the condescension towards women still is on Mansplain, or how normalised a lack of meaningful conversation or expression has become on WHUB. All of this lands with a blend of exasperation and frustration in the layered vocals from all three members that carries a lot of weight in itself, but when there’s the more uplifting tone that comes from standing up against it all for what’s right on Won’t Back Down or just taking an opportunity to be a bit wilder and reckless on Party With Me, Thick’s notion of prevailing through the turbulence feels familiar but ultimately earned.
‘Familiarity’ does seem to be the operative word across 5 Years Behind, and while the writing does find a way around some of the more open tiredness that could be present, the actually execution is unfortunately not as lucky. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the plucky, scruffy guitar melodies that are given a very prominent shine on tracks like Sleeping Through The Weekend, but it also feels like a piecing together of tones that have all been used before, and largely in these same configurations at that. At least there’s an inherent enjoyability when Kate Black’s bass work is given more of its own moment despite a lack of real innovation, and the scuzzier garage-rock textures and tempos on a track like Your Mom are a bit better, if only because they break up the monotony. In truth though, that monotony proves to be the biggest stumbling block for Thick; whether it’s within the scene as a whole or even between different moments on this album, there’s a lot here that just runs together, and though ultimately pleasant to listen to, the lasting impression it makes is severely limited.
And to be fair, that can be generally overlooked right now, especially given that this is a debut album, but the nagging feeling that Thick do have more to offer already and they’re just keeping their cards close to their chest isn’t one that really goes away. 5 Years Behind has too many moments of promise that peek out for this to be just another indie-punk album, and when Thick endeavour to ride those moments more effectively, as they do in the writing, they become a decently direct and punchy punk band that would undoubtedly fare better if they focused in on that lane. Right now, this is definitely solid, especially in establishing them within a crowded field, but that field might be a bit too crowded for its own good, and to see Thick become lost in the shuffle would be a shame. They’ve got a lot of potential, and embracing that before it’s simply swept to the sidelines is the best next step to take.
For fans of: Martha, Diet Cig, Potty Mouth
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘5 Years Behind’ by Thick is released on 6th March on Epitaph Records.